Public land on the Western Slope of Colorado.

Garfield County opposes proposed SEC investment rule

Would allow investment vehicles to remove resource production from public lands

November 27, 2023

Garfield County has submitted a letter voicing its opposition to a proposed U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule that would allow listing natural asset companies (NACs) as an investment option on the New York Stock Exchange. Under the proposal, the NACs must be managed for “sustainable” purposes, removing natural resource production from some federal lands.

Roughly 62 percent of Garfield County is public lands managed by the federal government, including 616,000 acres overseen by the Bureau of Land Management and 516,000 acres managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

“This proposed rule will directly harm our county and citizens,” the county’s letter states. “The county’s ability to fund our schools, hospitals, emergency services, roads, and other necessary services, is directly dependent on the productive use of these federal lands.”

The letter, which is addressed to SEC Secretary Vanessa A. Countryman, noted that the county’s primary concerns include that the proposed rule conveys “management authority” of all assets to an NAC and that there is no guidance or limitation over the that entity in regard to how it would manage the lands.

“It is simply blanket permission that appears to give private companies unlimited ability to set rules, definitions, permissions, and possibly penalties that will directly impact our county,” the letter reads. “This also will infringe on our right, conveyed by federal statute, that requires federal agencies to ‘coordinate’ the management of the federal lands with local jurisdictions.”

The proposed rule does not explain how local, state, and federal land use plans would be coordinated with the NACs. Locally, land use is determined through the county’s comprehensive and natural resource plans.

“The SEC rule appears to be elevating the priorities of the NAC over our constitutionally derived authorities,” the letter notes. “Garfield County’s policies support federal policies of multiple use and sustained yield to benefit the public.”

It notes that the proposed rule skirts congressional authorization, allows land trusts to enroll conservation easements for profit into the NAC, and undermines national security and American foreign policy, among other concerns.

“This would allow investors and governments to profit from the protection of natural resources,” explained Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “This ruling would mean a natural asset company through conservation measures could control or privatize public lands.”

The opposition letter was approved by the Board of County Commissioners unanimously, 3-0.